European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans proposed a fund that would provide millions of dollars in financial aid to help the world's poorest countries deal with the impacts of climate change during negotiations at COP27. File Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE
Nov. 18 (UPI) -- The European Union has proposed a fund that would provide financial aid to help the world's poorest countries deal with the impacts of climate change -- a key breakthrough after negotiations previously fell apart on the issue.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans put forward the motion agreeing to establish a loss and damage fund for the G77 group of developing countries at the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt after wealthier nations, including the United States, stalled on the proposal.
"We were reluctant about a fund, it was not our idea to have a fund," said Timmermans. "My reluctance was because I know from experience it takes time before a fund can be established, and more time before it is filled ... I really believe we could move faster with existing instruments. But since [the G77] are so attached to a fund, we have agreed."
The EU also demanded major countries increase efforts to cut down on greenhouse gases and emissions by 2025 -- a bargain that Timmermans described as a "package deal."
"It must go hand-in-hand with higher ambition on emissions reductions," he wrote on Twitter.
The funding remained an adamant demand as extreme weather events have ravaged many poor and developing nations throughout the year, with climate scientists forecasting the pattern to continue.
The majority of these governments do not have the financial means to rebuild critical infrastructure following a climate disaster and have been calling on richer countries to step up.
The COP27 conference kicked off Nov. 7 with the aim of addressing who bears the most responsibility for helping to fix the world's global warming problem.
Leaders at the summit acknowledged the difficulty in asking any country to provide financial aid amid the pressures of inflation and high energy prices that have racked the global economy all year.
Officials said "clear conditions" would be attached to the funding to assure that aid goes to the most vulnerable countries first, with the fund being continuously replenished through a wide range of sources around the world.
G77 leadership took a slow and shrewd approach In deciding whether to agree to the proposal, with some voices expressing skepticism about its sincerity.
"It is a predictable attempt by the EU to break up the G77 in talks," one negotiator told The Guardian on condition of anonymity. "Of course, it's not a breakthrough. They are merely repeating its original negotiating position by making it sound like a compromise when they know very well that it is not. It is completely disingenuous."
Notably, the United States has objected to such a fund and has not yet indicated its stance on the proposal.
China was also said to be on the sidelines and has never assumed any financial responsibility for its environmental pollution labeled as one of the worst in the world.
One representative for island nations accused the countries of using delay tactics during the discussions.
"There's only one option for small island developing states, a financing fund that delivers a just pathway for the future of our countries," said Carla Barnett, secretary general of the Caribbean Community. "Division and delay tactic will not work. This is a matter we defend on the basis of justice."
One expert who has been following the summit's developments said the current wording in the proposal might be too broad and could take considerable time before both sides would be in any position to agree.
"I expect Friday's discussion to turn the issue of defining vulnerability," said Yamide Dagnet, director for climate justice at the Open Society Foundations. "Both the EU and the pair of ministers' proposals on the table refer to the 'most vulnerable countries' and those who should benefit from this fund -- begging the question, who is included and who is excluded into this framing, which has never been clearly defined in UN terms and could limit the benefits of the fund."
Last week, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres gave a fiery speech at the opening of the summit, putting more pressure on rich nations to reach a deal to help poor countries.
In particular, he criticized the United States and China for continuing to cause the most pollution on Earth while at the same time refusing to work together to address environmental concerns, saying the world "is on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator."